Wash. Post's Balz repeated false claim that Bill Clinton attacked Democrats in recent speech

››› ››› SARAH PAVLUS

In a November 8 report, Washington Post staff writer Dan Balz repeated the false claim that former President Bill Clinton attacked Democratic presidential candidates for "swift-boating" his wife, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY), in the context of her response during the Democratic presidential debate to questions from debate moderator Tim Russert about New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer's (D) proposal to allow illegal immigrants to obtain driver's licenses. In fact, in his speech, Bill Clinton criticized Republican attacks on Democrats and the role the media play in contributing to such attacks, as Media Matters for America noted.

Specifically, regarding the back-and-forth on Spitzer's driver's license proposal, President Clinton said:

BILL CLINTON: I had the feeling, at the end of that last debate, we were about to get into cutesy land again. "Ya'll raise your hand if you're for illegal immigrants getting driver's licenses." So, we'll then let the Republicans run an ad saying, "All the Democrats are against the rule of law."

I don't -- look, I think it's fine to discuss immigration. We should. Illegal immigration needs to be discussed, and it's fine for Hillary and all these other guys to be asked about Governor Spitzer's plan -- but not in 30 seconds, yes, no, raise your hand. This is a complicated issue. This is a complicated issue.

From Balz's November 8 Post report:

Obama also criticized Bill Clinton's comments to a Las Vegas union crowd on Monday, when the former president compared the attacks on his wife by Democratic opponents Obama, former senator John Edwards (N.C.) and Sen. Chris Dodd (Conn.) to the television commercials aired against Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) in the 2004 presidential race and to GOP ads targeting then-Sen. Max Cleland (D-Ga.) in 2002.

The former president's comments drew widespread, though private, reactions from strategists in rival campaigns, who argued that he had dramatically exaggerated the criticism his wife had received and had stretched credulity with his Swift-boat analogy. A senior Clinton aide was quoted as saying that the former president's remarks were not helpful to his wife's candidacy and that he was not speaking for the campaign.

Another official later tried to distance the campaign from the suggestion that officials were trying to distance the candidate from her husband.

From Bill Clinton's speech:

CLINTON: [T]he point I'm here to make to you is whoever you're for, this is a really big election. We saw what happened the last seven years when we made decisions in elections based on trivial matters. When we listened to people make snide comments about whether Vice President [Al] Gore was too stiff. When they made dishonest claims about the things that he said that he'd done in his life. When that scandalous Swift boat ad was run against Senator [John] Kerry [D-MA].

When there was an ad that defeated [former Sen.] Max Cleland [D] in Georgia -- a man that left half his body in Vietnam. And a guy that had several deferments ran an ad with Max Cleland's picture with Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden, because he dared to vote against the president's version of the Homeland Security bill.

Most Americans still don't know the truth. The president was against the Homeland Security bill for eight and a half months. And [former White House senior adviser] Karl Rove told him they were going to lose the 2002 elections unless the American people were scared about terror again. So, they decided to be for a bill they'd opposed -- and they put a poison pill in it.

That bill was designed by the president to take the job rights away from 170,000 federal employees that had no access to secure information, no access to secure technology, no business being treated like CIA agents. Look, we need to be able to fire CIA agents without going through a long process in the public, right? But we don't need to treat secretaries at FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency] that way. I mean, the whole thing was a scam.

So Max Cleland said, "I didn't go to Vietnam and leave one arm and two legs to come home and hold my job by stripping the job rights from 170,000 good, hard-working Americans. I won't do it. So they put an ad on comparing him to Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden.

Why am I saying this?

Because, I had the feeling, at the end of that last debate, we were about to get into cutesy land again. "Ya'll raise your hand if you're for illegal immigrants getting driver's licenses." So, we'll then let the Republicans run an ad saying, "All the Democrats are against the rule of law."

I don't -- look, I think it's fine to discuss immigration. We should. Illegal immigration needs to be discussed, and it's fine for Hillary and all these other guys to be asked about Governor Spitzer's plan -- but not in 30 seconds, yes, no, raise your hand. This is a complicated issue. This is a complicated issue.

So, do I hope you'll vote for my wife? You bet I do. It'd be good for America and good for the world. But, more than that, I came here to tell you today: Don't you dare let them take this election away from you. This belongs to you and to your children -- and to the future of America.

Don't be diverted. Don't be divided. Our best days are still ahead, claim them. Thank you.

A November 7 New York Times article reported, "Jay Carson, a spokesman for Mrs. Clinton's campaign, said Mr. Clinton had not been referring to Democratic candidates' criticisms of his wife but to Republicans' criticism of her debate performance." Yet, in recent days, several media outlets described Bill Clinton's comments as an attack on Hillary Clinton's Democratic rivals.

Network/Outlet
The Washington Post
Person
Dan Balz
Stories/Interests
Propaganda/Noise Machine, 2008 Elections
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